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First ever elder care co-operative in B.C. receives grant from Coastal Community Credit Union

Cowichan Elder Care Co-operative ready to begin outreach this October

by Bernice Paul

Roger Hart (left), Chair of Cowichan Elder Care Co-operative, receives a $10,000 cheque donation from Jason Willems of Coastal Community Credit Union.
Roger Hart (left), Chair of Cowichan Elder Care Co-operative, receives a $10,000 cheque donation from Jason Willems of Coastal Community Credit Union.

October 13, 2015 — Duncan, BC — Coastal Community Credit Union has given $10,000 in grant money to a new initiative aimed at supporting seniors in the Cowichan Valley. With an aging population and a reduction in government assistance, the Cowichan Elder Care Co-operative (CECC) has emerged and will help seniors extend their time living at home by acting as a trusted resource to make referrals, arrange sub-contractors, and co-ordinate volunteers to deliver services to seniors at home. After an intensive planning phase, which included feasibility studies and public information meetings, the co-op is now poised to launch.

Coastal Community’s grant will pay for an ambitious member recruitment campaign, covering diverse needs from marketing the co-op to the training and development of new board members. All this to ensure that CECC is able to recruit the right set of individuals as both members and leaders for the co-op. 

Roger Hart, a long-time promoter of community economic development in the Cowichan Valley, along with the Board members of CECC, believes that now is the right time to introduce the concept of an elder care co-op. “Our community needs to reacquaint itself with ‘people caring for people’,” Hart says, “With increased demand on social and health services, the elder care co-op will provide meaningful work for active senior members of our community willing to offer services in accordance with our desire for ‘seniors helping seniors’.” 

Younger generations throughout the Cowichan Valley will also be needed and are encouraged to get involved with the co-op. The co-op Board plans for innovative partnerships with local high schools that will allow young people to contribute both socially and economically to their communities.

More and more startup ventures like the CECC are looking for different business models in which to incorporate. As a co-operative, the business is owned and controlled by the people who use its services. In B.C. alone, there are 721 co-operatives incorporated within the province, with assets worth over $67 billion.

The B.C. Co-operative Association (BCCA) developed a national Co-operative Elder Care Project in 2013, and piloted it in five provinces, including B.C.’s Cowichan Valley. At its conception, with the support of the Government of Canada through the Social Development Partnerships Program and the Vancouver Foundation, BCCA provided CECC with $30,000 in seed funding to plan and develop the co-op. Carol Murray, BCCA’s Executive Director, believes that this type of co-op will really make a difference in communities. “It’s about enabling communities to come together to support elders at home, where they want to be, in a co-operative way.”

Those at Coastal Community Credit Union also agree. The Credit Union has had a relationship with the CECC since its early days, providing support last year to host a public and member information meeting. “Helping seniors access safe, reliable services at a fair price is an initiative we strongly believe in at Coastal Community,” says Allyson Prescesky, Manager of Community Experience and Communications. “We were inspired by the initiative, which has been built on a co-operative model— run by seniors, for seniors — while providing a sense of belonging to those involved, where all members have the chance for input into decision-making.”

Cowichan Elder Care Co-op will be moving into new offices at Providence Farm next month and will be hosting a social to launch member services. — 3

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